Yucatán, Mexico - Jan 2008
Our 1st stop on our Yucatán adventure was Isla Holbox. After arriving at the Cancun airport our transfer was waiting for outside the Cancun airport. It was about a 2 1/2 hr ride to the ferry terminal and a 15 minute ferry ride across to the island. A short pedal taxi and we arrived at Casa Sandra Hotel for a 6 night stay.
Our room was a Jr. suite with a comfortable large bed and sitting area, balcony and wrap around view. The hotel was perfectly situated on a lovely stretch of beach only a short 5 minute walk to town. The only disappointing thing was that the restaurant there always seemed to be a hard time with their meal service, which was often very slow and unorganized. The dinners we had there, were in the higher price bracket and often if you ordered something it came with nothing else but the meat on the plate ... no rice, vegetables, etc? The staff were great though and we are hoping they can improve their restaurant and this would be a top notch place.
Isla Holbox still has sandy streets, no cars and inexpensively priced family run family restaurants that provide great food and exceptionally friendly service, some of our favourites were; La Isla Del Colibri, Los Pelicanos, Edelyn Pizzaria, La Cueva Del Pirata & Indigo Moon Café. The beach has talcum powder sand and no drop off and you can walk for kilometres. I have never been anywhere where there was such a variety of coloured seashells along a shore. Local fisherman bring in their catch a couple time a day right up to the beach and its great fun to watch the pelicans, seagulls and frigates competing for some tidbits. You can enjoy a cold beer with the fisherman right at some of their palapas on the beach.
We rented a golf cart one day to ride to both ends of the island and explore some completely deserted beaches. We were actually visiting the Island during the “off” season. One of the biggest draws to the Island, is going out to see the whale sharks, in the months of June - September. See this island now before the waves of change come in with branded hotels and condos.
After a transfer back to Cancun we picked up our Caribbean Rent a Car and headed off on the toll highway ($18.00) for a 1 night stay at one of our favourite hotels - The Meson des Marques in Valladolid. This hotel has one of the very best restaurants in the Yucatán and everyone should make this a must visit.
The next day we headed off for a 3 night stay in Mérida. We took the regular (non toll) highway so we could enjoy going through the small towns along the way. Arriving Mérida we stayed at, Casa del Balam, which is a lovely old hotel right in the heart of the city. The main squares are within a few minutes walking distance and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights there is plenty of music, dancing, local food vendors, etc. The Museum of Modern Art is a must ... simply incredible. We had our breakfasts at a local cafe called Cafe Pop, beatnik decor where locals talk politics and catch up on daily gossip... cheap and highly recommended. We saw a local customer order a bowl of raw onions with salsa for his supper there one night. We had a lovely meal at the Belle Epoque restaurant sitting out a stone balcony overlooking the musicians. If you are into shopping for quality items at better prices than the touristy areas this is the place.
We headed off to Progresso for a 1 night stay to tour along the coast hoping to see flamingos as we had last year at Rio Lagartos. Unfortunately Progresso was a bit of a disappointment. The town was full of sick, stray dogs and the beach was littered with garbage. We did see flamingos in the distance on our drive, but for true birders I would suggest Rio Lagartos. We did however luck out with a charming hotel there called the Hotel Yakunah run by a Dutch couple. The rooms are wonderful, quiet and very comfortable. The food was excellent as the owner is a chef and formally owned and operated a restaurant in Bonaire. We then travelled along the coast for a while and then headed down towards Izamal and Sudzal.
This is where the trip takes a step back in time. We had booked a 2 night stay at The Hacienda San Antonio Chalante, a former Franciscan monastery, then a working ranch, and now a B&B. It is located south east of Izamal. The road to it is not even on our best map but signs along the way on some charming country roads make it easy to find. A man holding a deer head under his arm (yes... I said a real deer head) gave us directions. This is probably the most atmospheric place I have ever stayed. A huge mansion style affair with courtyards, orchards, fountains, antique furniture owned and run by a lovely lady named Dianne. Our room, The El Greco had a 21 foot high ceiling, wrought iron furniture and interesting artwork. You must look at the photos to truly get a sense of what it was like, very gothic in it’s own way.
Our first night there was a huge thunderstorm and our second night a black-out for a couple hours. At dusk fruit bats swoop in and out of the patios and in the morning the bird songs wake you up. Dianne has an extensive library of books and the hacienda is situated near a newly discovered Mayan village where an archeological dig is going on. The staff are wonderful and we had breakfast and dinner there both days and the food and bar bill came to $55.00 for 2 ... amazing! The chef is excellent. We had eggs, fresh fruit & juice home baked bread and eggs and meat for breakfast and a different set supper each night with creme brûlée for dessert 1 night. The room was only $65.00 a night. There are horses, chickens, trails to explore and we wished we had stayed another couple nights. The owner’s 2 dogs lounge around the area and spend most of their days having siestas, barely giving the cat a second look as she sashays by. We loved being around the animals and the sense of time standing still. I could picture this setting for a vampire or thriller ... and a movie crew just definitely must get down there.
We spent a day touring the bright yellow town of Izamal, a lovely colonial city. The majority of the buildings and famous convent are painted bright, mustard yellow. There are many artistic workshops there where you can watch woodworkers, silversmiths etc. in their own studios. The convent was build on top of Kinich Kak Moo which was an important site for Mayan shamans. If you visit Izamal visit the beautifully laid out “Centro Cutural y Artesanal” to see very impressive artwork by some of Mexico’s contemporary designers.
After our stay there we headed off for our 2 week stay in Akumal ... just as beautiful as we remembered. Snorkeling in Akumal Bay you still see live coral of many varieties and the sea life is amazing ... turtles, rays, cuttlefish, barracuda and many species of fish, it’s one giant aquarium. Having lunch at the Lol Ha restaurant or La buena Vida in Half Moon Bay and watching the sky and water feels heaven-sent. A wonderful new restaurant for us this year was Que Onda, serving a mostly Italian themed menu with homemade pasta. It is located at the north end of Akumal road, near the beautiful Yal-Ku snorkeling lagoon.
We did a visit to the Aktun Chen caves (just south of Akumal) which exceeded my expectations. The cave itself is part of an old underground river system. It has a breathtaking array of stalactites and stalagmites, finally ending in a beautifully lit underground cenote. Going through it is not for the claustrophobic as there as some low hanging areas you have to crouch to get through from one cave chamber to the next. It is on 1,000 acres of a protected forest and you can see deer, snakes, birds, spider & howler monkeys.
We did a day trip from here to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, a protected area along the coast south of Tulum. An early morning boat ride by ourselves with Gasper our guide, revealed beautiful mangrove channels and many birds and the occasional crocodile. The colours on the lagoon are amazing.
We did another day trip to Coba (one of our favourite ruins). It is wonderful walking under the canopy of trees and I think we love this place as much for it’s natural beauty of trees, plants, flowers, birds, butterflies “The Blue Morpho” if you are lucky ... as we do for it’s history. We always have lunch at the Club Med hotel on the lagoon where they serve excellent meals around a tranquil courtyard-pool setting.
Good bye to our wonderful “apartment” right on the beach (Un-Nah-Kin) with Marcy & Memo and their amazing staff. We hope to return soon!
Travels throughout the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.
Arriving by water taxi to the small Island of Isla-Holbox.
Casa Sandra resort on the beach.
Casa Sandra lobby
To our room at the end of the hallway
Our room at the Casa Sandra ~ Isla Holbox.
The pool in back with guard dog.
Frigite birds and seagulls
Pelican's early lunch, Holbox beach.
Walking along the sand
Sunset in Holbox
The main pier in town
Slightly modified mayan house.
Beautiful hallway during our street walk.
A walk down the beach.
Isla Holbox fisherman
Travels throughout the Yucatan
Our Lake Winnipeg pelicans on winter vacation ?
Our boat awaits for and afternoon of discovery.
View back to Casa Sandra hotel. (Holbox)
Our afternoon boat tour around Holbox Island.
Short stop for a swim in a fresh water pool. ~ Yalahau Lagoon
A beer on the beach after the boat tour
Whale shark tour boats resting
Our golf cart rental for the day.
Golf cart road to the West side of the Island
A snake along the path on our golf cart.
Sandy roads in Holbox
La Isla de Colibrí colourful bar
Early lunch, downtown Holbox
Central plaza discussion
Early evening as we walk into town.
Pinata time !
One of the many small restaurants in the central plaza.
A nice find on the sand.
Lots of shells on the beach
Travels throughout the Yucatan
Travels throughout the Yucatan
Sandy streets of Holbox.
The sleepy sandy roads of Holbox.
A great pizza and Italian food restaurant by the plaza in town.
Casa Sandra hotel.
Holbox taxi ride back to the ferry.
Morning water taxi ride from Isle Holbox and on our way to Valladolid.
Drive through fruit stand ~ Valladolid
Cathedral de San Gervasio and the central plaza in Valladolid
Valladolid side street.
Hotel El Mason del Marques, courtyard restaurant in Valladolid
Very traditional Yucatan dish ~ Salbutes
Corn tortillas topped with tangy shredded chicken
Iglesiacy Ex-convento San Bernardino de Siena (1560)
Convent Passage way in the town of Valladolid
Merman wind sculpture ~ Progresso Yucatan.
ob la de, ob la da ~ life goes on ! ~ Isamal Yucatan.
Late lunch at Hacienda San Antonio Chalante
Hacienda San Antonio Chalante lounge - near Isamal.
Atmospheric artwork at the Hacienda
Our room at the
The beautiful pool at the Hacienda.
Beautiful turquoise-browed Motmot bird ~ Isamal Yucatan.
Our on duty "guard" dog at the hacienda.
Franciscan convent ~ Izamal.
Modern local artwork "Day of the Dead" ~ festival.
Merida museum of modern art.
Mime on the street in Merida
Old friends in Merida
Beautiful early evening walking around the central plaza in Merida
The malicon in Progresso.
An abondoned villa on the malicon in Progresso
Mermaid balcony detail ~ Progresso.
Was I supposed to pick up milk ? ~ Progresso Yucatan.
The "new" suburbs in Izamal. Little 600 sq-ft boxes made of ticky tacky
Her pet chrocodile near Coba.
The long walk in the shade in Coba.
Dog paddle surfing
Fruit market on the main street in Tulum
Palapa's in Sian Ka'an Bio Spere reserve, south of Tulum.
Punta Allen - lunch time view
Punta Allan float collection
Ackun-chen cave network, near Akumal.
Cuttle-fish changing colours while snorking in Akumal bay.
Spotted Eagle ray swims by.
Eagle-ray swims by while snokling in Akumal bay.
Green sea turtle
Green turtle eating sea-grass in Akumal bay
Barracuda passing by while snorking in Akumal bay.